British vicar Sir Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877) penned possibly the most beautiful hymn ever based on Psalm 23: The King of Love My Shepherd Is. The hymn contains six stanzas that match the six verses of the psalm – with a few nods to other references made about the Good Shepherd in the Old and New Testaments – and first appeared in an appendix of the hymnal Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1868.
Two tunes are typically used for Baker’s text. John B. Dykes’ wrote the tune Dominus Regit Me for The King of Love in 1868 but copyright issues prevented that tune from appearing in The English Hymnal so the traditional Gaelic tune St. Columba was used instead. Today, both tunes are popular for The King of Love but modern hymnals lean toward using Dominus Regit Me. However, the lovely Irish lilt of St. Columba is more popular with arrangers (like me) and that’s the tune you hear in the sound file above.
The King of Love is especially appropriate for one particular Sunday during the six-week Easter season when the lectionary readings (both
Catholic and Protestant) feature Good Shepherd/Lamb of God themes. I affectionately call that Sunday “Sheep Week” and, with Sheep Week in mind, I decided to write a medley based on shepherd-themed hymns. But, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I outlined the The King of Love My Shepherd Is section and realized I had more than enough material to create a stand-alone arrangement. So I scrapped the idea of a medley (for now) and wrote this arrangement instead. Simple and soothing, it’s perfect for funerals and memorial services, weddings, baptisms and confirmations, reflective times during worship services, and – of course – Sheep Week. Enjoy! 🙂
And so through all the length of days,
thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
within thy house forever.